Can this nano-particle turn into gold standard Big C treatment?

Aravind Kumar Rengan... working for affordable cancer treatment

An IIT-Hyderabad Scientist has developed a liposome core with gold coating with therapeutic, imaging applications

They are small, but potent enough to kill cancerous cells.

An IIT-Hyderabad scientist has successfully engineered biodegradable nano-particles that can be delivered to tumour sites either to kill the cancer cells or image them.

In animal trials, the liposome — a minute spherical sac of phospholipid molecules enclosing a water droplet, especially formed artificially to carry drugs or other substances into tissues — core with gold-coated nano (thinner than the human hair) particles have been successful in killing cancerous cells without any side-effects. Results have been positive in treating the tumours, especially in breast cancer and fibro sarcoma, says Aravind Kumar Rengan of the IITH, who started his work in 2010 during his stint at IIT- Mumbai. His work won him the the Indian National Science Academy, Young Scientist Award 2017.

The INSA citation reads: “This research through which he was able to engineer a biodegradable nano-system for photothermal therapy of cancer and proved its in-vivo biodegradability, has got immense translational potential and can be used to treat cancer in an affordable way with minimal side-effects.”

At present, there is only one other similar delivery system in the world at the Rice University in the US. Researchers there use silica core coated with gold nano-particles. The USFDA-approved particles of 100 nanometres have gone into human trials now, after sustained progress since 2008, says Aravind Kumar.

“Silica and gold are non-biodegradable and do not get excreted by the kidney. Therefore, they can be only therapeutic agents. In contrast, the liposome core with gold coating developed by us gets excreted by the kidney, and hence has the potential for both therapeutic and imaging applications, he explains.

The currently used imaging techniques are X-Ray or MRI and CT scans where gadolinium and iodoform are used as image contrast material. “Once more work is done, our nano-particle can be used as a clinically viable imaging agent,” he claims.

The research work by Aravind Kumar, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at IIT-Hyderabad, was published in the Journal of Nanoscale and ACS Nano Letters.



The nano-particles engineered by Aravind Kumar have the ability to absorb specific light in the NAR (nuclear acoustic resonance), which is like NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) and is used as a light imaging tool to detect and characterise soft tissue.

When the particles are delivered to the tumour site, they give out signals, which can be analysed in real time. For treatment, the nano-particles are injected onto the tumour killing the cancerous cells. There is no chemical or herbal drug involved in delivering the medicine and there are no side-effects, either.

Aravind Kumar has filed four patents — three Indian and one PCT (Paris Convention Treaty), which covers many countries. The next step is to do pre-clinical validation. The nano-particle should not be toxic to humans.

Thereafter, Phase-I clinical trials will be done. The research project was supported besides IIT-Hyderabad, by the Departments of Biotechnology and Science and Technology, the Ministry of HRD, and Infosys Foundation, says Aravind Kumar.

Published on June 09, 2017
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